How a Project Manager plans a Disneyland Trip

A Disney Vacation is a Project By Marc Barringer

There are many ways to plan a vacation, but planning a Disney vacation is a much larger task than many know—especially if it is one of your first visits to a park. As a project manager by trade, I approach a Disney vacation exactly like I would approach a project at work. It may seem a bit tedious at first, I promise you that in the long run it will save you in time and mistakes.

Planning starts way before you even talk to Disney reservations or a Travel Agent that specializes in Disney Vacations. On a side note, those are the only two ways I would book a Disney vacation. If you go with a travel agency that does not specialize in Disney, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities—like a friend who was told he could book his dinner reservations for Walt Disney World about a month before his arrival date in August, neglecting to mention to him he could book as far out as 180 days.

As a Project Manager the first thing I do when working a project, or planning a Disney vacation, is to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A WBS is a list of tasks that are required to successfully accomplish a project. It helps me to break down the project into 5 different Phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Closeout. I use Microsoft Project to do the WBS, but it can be easily done on a spreadsheet or with pen and paper. My current “project” has 55 lines and has a duration of 173 Days. It is my Disneyland Vacation with my daughter—her first trip to a Disney Park. The picture below is part of my WBS for my Disneyland vacation. Dates have been removed for privacy sake, but you want to see the start and finish date for each task so you are not late on anything.


Proper planning of a project, or a Disney Vacation, is the bulk of the work needed for a successful vacation. Planning it this way, for me, helps me be aware of important hard dates like when I can start booking reservations at restaurants, special events or for my daughter’s princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. If you notice at the top right of the WBS, it says My Disney Vacation Project is 97% complete. I am 34 days away, at the time of this writing, from my Disneyland Vacation.   There is an old cliché in the project management community: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. It holds true with a major vacation like a Disney vacation as well.

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The Execution of your Disney vacation starts before you think it does.   Notice in my WBS, my project execution starts with booking the hotel, flight and purchasing the tickets. Obviously, the best part of the Execution Phase of this project will be my time in the parks with my daughter.

The last two phases of the project are no less important than the first three. Monitoring and Closing the project. Monitoring your project is something you would normally do, I hope, for any vacation. You’re going to check to make sure your execution is going as planned. You verify your reservations have been captured as you want them and that your plane is departing at the scheduled time, etc.

Closing out the project/vacation is a critical phase that many people and professionals in project management fail to fully complete, but is vital to the success of your next vacation as well as your memories. I pre-ordered the Photopass+ picture package Disneyland offers, so I’ll need to order them before Disney’s expiration deadline when I get home. I also need to document what worked well and what I missed so when I plan my next Disney vacation with my daughter, I have a better plan, and hopefully, a better trip.

If you take the time to properly plan your vacation, it will significantly reduce your stress levels as the vacation date approaches and will allow you to better enjoy your time in the parks!


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Michele Atwood is the Owner/Editor of The Main Street Mouse and it’s subsidiaries and author of the books “Moving to Main Street U.S.A.” “How Many Sleeps Till Disney?” and “How Many Sleeps Till Disneyland?” Michele also contributes Disney news to the Joe Kelley Morning Show on 107.3 WDBO in Orlando. She and her family made the move from Michigan to the Orlando area to pursue their Disney dreams. Michele is a life long Disney fan, and has two sons who have followed suit, each going on their first Disney trip before their first birthday’s. Part of the goal Michele has for The Main Street Mouse is not only to keep members informed, but to create somewhat of a Disney Family by relating to others through personal experiences and opinions. Also, Michele is making it a priority to share stories of inspiration and hope to other Disney Fans in an effort to share the Magic and hopefully make a difference in the lives of others. ~ I enjoy writing personal perspective blogs, doing TMSM Meet Ups for our readers, and keeping the constant interaction going with others, sharing the Disney Magic to people when they can’t be at their Happy Place.

Michele has 5845 posts and counting. See all posts by Michele


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